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Luke 20:20-26

Paying Taxes to Caesar

20:20 Then 1  they watched him carefully and sent spies who pretended to be sincere. 2  They wanted to take advantage of what he might say 3  so that they could deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction 4  of the governor. 20:21 Thus 5  they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach correctly, 6  and show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 7  20:22 Is it right 8  for us to pay the tribute tax 9  to Caesar 10  or not?” 20:23 But Jesus 11  perceived their deceit 12  and said to them, 20:24 “Show me a denarius. 13  Whose image 14  and inscription are on it?” 15  They said, “Caesar’s.” 20:25 So 16  he said to them, “Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 17  20:26 Thus 18  they were unable in the presence of the people to trap 19  him with his own words. 20  And stunned 21  by his answer, they fell silent.

1 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.

2 tn Grk “righteous,” but in this context the point is their false sincerity.

3 tn Grk “so that they might catch him in some word.”

4 tn This word is often translated “authority” in other contexts, but here, in combination with ἀρχή (arch), it refers to the domain or sphere of the governor’s rule (L&N 37.36).

5 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “thus” to indicate the implied result of the plans by the spies.

6 tn Or “precisely”; Grk “rightly.” Jesus teaches exactly, the straight and narrow.

7 sn Teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Very few comments are as deceitful as this one; they did not really believe this at all. The question was specifically designed to trap Jesus.

8 tn Or “lawful,” that is, in accordance with God’s divine law. On the syntax of ἔξεστιν (exestin) with an infinitive and accusative, see BDF §409.3.

9 tn This was a “poll tax.” L&N 57.182 states this was “a payment made by the people of one nation to another, with the implication that this is a symbol of submission and dependence – ‘tribute tax.’”

10 tn Or “to the emperor” (“Caesar” is a title for the Roman emperor).

11 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

12 tn Or “craftiness.” The term always has negative connotations in the NT (1 Cor 3:19; 2 Cor 4:2; 11:3; Eph 4:14).

13 tn Here the specific name of the coin was retained in the translation, because not all coins in circulation in Palestine at the time carried the image of Caesar. In other places δηνάριον (dhnarion) has been translated simply as “silver coin” with an explanatory note.

sn A denarius was a silver coin worth approximately one day’s wage for a laborer. The fact that the leaders had such a coin showed that they already operated in the economic world of Rome. The denarius would have had a picture of Tiberius Caesar, the Roman emperor, on it.

14 tn Or “whose likeness.”

sn In this passage Jesus points to the image (Grk εἰκών, eikwn) of Caesar on the coin. This same Greek word is used in Gen 1:26 (LXX) to state that humanity is made in the “image” of God. Jesus is making a subtle yet powerful contrast: Caesar’s image is on the denarius, so he can lay claim to money through taxation, but God’s image is on humanity, so he can lay claim to each individual life.

15 tn Grk “whose likeness and inscription does it have?”

16 tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “so” to indicate that Jesus’ pronouncement results from the opponents’ answer to his question.

17 sn Jesus’ answer to give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s was a both/and, not the questioners’ either/or. So he slipped out of their trap.

18 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “thus” to indicate the implied result of Jesus’ unexpected answer.

19 tn On this term, see BDAG 374 s.v. ἐπιλαμβάνομαι 3.

20 tn Grk “to trap him in a saying.”

21 tn Or “amazed.”

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